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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:02 am 
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FerdinandGriffon wrote:
Real was also excellent. Shokuzai was a major disappointment to me, and I was concerned that Real, as another novel adaptation, would be more of the same. Luckily, this is a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film through and through. You can kind of tell that the basic framework was someone else's, but it's been rewired into his personal universe so thoroughly that it hardly matters, as was the case with Tokyo Sonata. Though the premise and plot are sci-fi/thriller with echoes of Inception and Paprika, the film is aesthetically and thematically of a piece with Kurosawa's horror work, though this time around augmented and amplified by the move to digital. Now his ghosts distort as if they're part of a bad rip being played through VLC Media Player, and rapid punch-ins made in post render faces a sea of pixels. The tone was , if anything, less uneven than in most Kurosawa pictures (for the first two hours straight it's almost unbearably unsettling), the symbolism is always ambiguous or tongue-in-cheek, and I don't know how to answer anyone who finds
[Reveal] Spoiler:
ten minutes of plesiosaur rampage through an abandoned warehouse
an unsatisfying ending. It's an affecting, disturbing, and formally audacious movie, and confirmation that Kurosawa is still one of the greatest risk-takers working in either arthouse or mainstream cinema today.

Finally got to see this - while I now understand better some of the negative reactions and can certainly appreciate how people would have problems with the plot twist and the last 20-30 minutes, I still find these flat-out takedowns all over the press utterly absurd: the first 90 minutes or so are among his most immediately gripping as well as emotionally accessible work. I would guess that the negative reactions stem mostly from the disappointment that the film doesn't pay off in the expected way: I too was thrown and felt a bit cheated by the twist, as well as exasperated by the drawn-out ending (although the above-spoilered bit certainly made me sit up - good to see those trusty old cardboard boxes getting it again!), but these people who have been moved to call the entire film "forgettable", "bland", derivative or devoid of tension - quite frankly I don't think they should be writing about movies at all :D

I don't know if anyone else has bothered to see this but would be interested to hear people's opinions: thinking about the problems I had with it and reading all the reviews I could find online, I found it particularly striking that in NONE of them are the implications of the plot twist given any consideration at all: instead, it's as if everyone agreed that the only possible reason for such a move could be the director's wish to throw off the audience. Is this really how low our expectations towards films have sunk, or have these people just been watching too much Christopher Nolan? For me, a far more interesting question than its (in)coherence or (un)predictability would be: what does Koichi's dreaming up such a situation tell us about him and his relationship with Atsumi? But that question only occurred to me long after my initial negative reaction. I suspect there are many other such intriguing questions that might arise on repeated viewings.

I guess it might be argued that I'm projecting overly lofty motives on an undeserving work, but something about this film moves me in a way that would seem to point to the contrary; it's also my experience that Kurosawa's films do tend to contain understated philosophical ideas that are not easily deciphered on first glance, and that critics' failure to engage with them often seems to lead to the repeating stock criticisms of hamfisted symbolism and incomprehensible endings, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Fri Jan 24, 2014 9:05 am 
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Real just released on English-subtitled HK blu-ray.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:32 am 
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That's great news - been holding off on the expensive Japanese Blu. I wonder if it's a straight port of that or if there might be a difference in quality.

Stumbled across the Beautiful 2013 short films on Youku, including KK's truly bizarre Beautiful New Bay Area Project - unfortunately this time around the subtitles are Chinese only. It's a light-hearted divertissement at best, but would still have been nice to understand the dialogue during the first two thirds. It seems to be about a melancholic executive of a construction company who falls obsessively in love with one his workers; she doesn't reciprocate his feelings, but he keeps pestering the woman to the point of finally stealing her nameplate to get her attention - and what happens after that is probably best left unspoiled (don't read the reviews!)


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 2:43 pm 
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repeat wrote:
Stumbled across the Beautiful 2013 short films on Youku, including KK's truly bizarre Beautiful New Bay Area Project - unfortunately this time around the subtitles are Chinese only.

Thanks for finding this, repeat!, Definitely watchable without subs, and a lot of fun. The episode with some kind of vermin loose in the office is classic KK precision filmmaking. And who knew he was such a brilliant director of kung-fu, or that he'd reveal this talent in a short about a lazy architect and workplace harassment!

I really hope the whole anthology gets some kind of English language release at some point. Besides Kurosawa's contribution, a new Wu Nien-jen film is a big deal.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Thu Apr 02, 2015 5:18 am 
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David Bordwell rehabilitates Penance: "Exemplifies the sort of clean, classical genre filmmaking that doesn’t get done in America very much... something for young filmmakers to study". (Apparently the Music Box release is equipped with an essay from him, all the more reason to pick it up - and it's on Blu-ray, too!)

Got around to watching Seventh Code at last: widely snubbed as a "minor work", instead it's another 60 minutes of outstanding, instantly recognizable Kurosawa in the increasingly unfettered, free-flowing style of his post-Tokyo Sonata works - and another crucial reminder of how (even with such minimal means!) almost anything can be done with sufficient imagination and filmmaking chops. This should be paired on a DVD with Bay Area Project, and handed out to aspiring directors so they can draw the right conclusion and just forget about it. There's an excellent review by Usuda Kohei over at Midnight Eye (the only English-language review worth reading: how the fuck is it even possible that out of the half dozen or so others, not a single one mentions Kiss Me Deadly, but instead blabber on about J-horror and whatever unrelated nonsense - do these people even watch films?!)


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:58 am 
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Noticed during routine googlings that the somewhat elusive Barren Illusion has popped up on YouTube (dismal picture quality, but watchable). It's a very strange film, and probably not a good introduction to Kurosawa, but essential viewing for those already interested in his work: some elements of it are mirrored/recycled in later films like Bright Future. Barren Illusion contains to my mind some of his most striking work with spaces and blocking, and also features some uncharacteristic play with primary colours (in some ways I guess this might be his most Godardian film). It's also interesting as an obviously very-low-budget experiment (still haven't seen any of his pre-1997 stuff like the Katte ni shiyagare!! series so don't know how it compares with them in this respect) - I believe it was made together with his students, like Beautiful New Bay Area Project. This is a film that will probably never ever get released outside of Japan, and the R2J DVD is prohibitively expensive for blind-buying, so take a look while it's easily available...


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 6:35 am 
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While waiting for this years double-dose of Creepy and Daguerreotype, here's a recent KK curio: a music video for "Flashback" by the band Sōtaisei Riron, from their 2016 album Tensei Jingle.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 8:02 am 
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Being a serious fan of earlier Kurosawa films, but then alienated from his more recent work by the double-disappointments of Tokyo Sonata and Real, I approached Creepy with trepidation. I felt Kurosawa had really lost his touch, and the subsequent films on offer didn't seem at all attractive to me, but Creepy promised a return to horror, and it had a fine trailer, so it seemed worth a go.

Everything charmed about the Kurosawa style is back. The performances are adroit, even inspired. Kurosawa seems to be in full control of his style, using the most minimal of stylistic vibrato to invest scenes with unsettling tension. The film is rich in thematic material, and individual scenes in the film are constantly hinting at themes and ideas that seem to burst from the real world around us. The basic idea of the film is one even that hews very close to his glory days––of Kurosawa's previous films, the new one is closest to Cure, which is probably his most universally well-thought-of movie (or is it Pulse nowadays? I always think of Cure). The idea of dominance and mind-control is back for another chilling go-around, and it offers up interesting variations in this new film. More than a rerun of old tropes, Creepy has its own thematic interest; the film deals with a kind of psychic vampirism whose effects are multiplied by the ways Kurosawa insists modern life in Japan is driving people and communities apart. Kurosawa evinces this sense of a crumbling social structure much more expertly and convincingly than in Tokyo Sonata, and the horror proves more compelling than the serio-comic melodrama of that movie. It's a triumphant return of Kurosawa the sinister thinker, whose removed style and elliptical editing made his genre films feel like the very personal products of an imaginative and perceptive mind.

And yet...something is amiss here. I don't know if it's the oppressive presence of actor Teruyuki Kagawa, who played the father in Tokyo Sonata, and who dominates this movie...the film leaves a strange and sour taste. And even though the picture is in one way the product of a director whose style seems wholly "mature"--honed to the point that his effects need only be very delicate and his confidence with storytelling seems complete--that sour taste I felt at intervals throughout the picture leads me to chafe at the idea of calling this movie any kind of masterpiece. At 2 hours and about 10 minutes, the film is right in the same sweet spot run-time as many other Kurosawa movies––but this one felt exceptionally long--like three hours or more. It's true that the title implies a certain growing sense of something unsettling, in order to work. But at an hour in, I looked at the clock and noted not only that an hour had passed, but that I was no closer to having any kind of handle on where the film was going. The plot of the film had not coalesced at that point into anything tangible. The film does begin with a masterful sequence depicting an escape and standoff at a police station, but that action turns out to be only adjacent to the coming story, a lever by which our cop hero
[Reveal] Spoiler:
gets booted into early retirement.
The sequence seems to be about 10 good minutes of intensity, but now that I look back, I can recall that Detective Yabuike gets suspended so that he can go on the adventure of Charisma in about 2 or 3 minutes of the film starting. 90 minutes into Creepy the perspective of the movie shifts from the main character to some of the other characters, and we get an instant reveal of all the strange stuff that has been going on, who has been doing what, and what all the mounting horror is in aid of. Earlier Kurosawa films showed horrific situations sparingly, leading us to imagine a lot of the horror. But that extended late passage of Creepy drags on like a never-ending geek show, reminiscent of a Park Chan-Wook film (I'm thinking especially of Three: Extremes here, but Lady Vengeance and Thirst have this feel as well, I think). It's hideous and emphatic, and, one gets the sense, its own kind of deafening boredom. There is what appears to be a joke about that sense of dullness baked in at this point in the pudding.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
The villain of the piece--the "vampire" in this "vampire movie," so to speak--sits in the homes he takes over watching jellyfish swimming in perpetual slow-motion on the family TV set while the house around him deteriorates and while his thralls whose house he has invaded waste away before him.
This seems to be part of a system of almost revoltingly underplayed jokes in the film. Earlier on, as the hero Takakura lectures a class on the psychology of serial killers in America, he outlines a near-identical crime to the one he'll eventually stumble onto next door. "America is really on a whole different level" he says, shaking his head in bemusement at the horrifying extent of foreign psychosis.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
One of the most disturbed and disturbing victims of the film's serial killer, when finally free of his grasp, hops around shouting in pathetically petty fury at his corpse. There is also a repeated bit where Kurosawa makes you think he's going to off the picture's absolutely adorable dog.
These all feel like a side-line of mordant humor in the film, but they are so off-center and so softly-played that maybe they aren't meant to be funny, after all? I kind of wonder if Kurosawa finds actor Kagawa hysterical as well, because he gives Kagawa so many mugging close-ups. There was the sense that Kagawa's character in Tokyo Sonata was supposed to be funny in his abject humiliation as the emasculated salaryman, but in both films I found Kagawa a character from which I could wring no little wisp or squirt of humor. Earlier Kurosawa movies seemed quite funny, and this picture seemed to be pulling some of the same moves, but with results that were much harder to track. What here was I meant to laugh at or not? As ambiguous as some of the humor in previous films was, its presence was no accident. But Creepy feels exceptionally haphazard in its relationship to its funny bone.

Am I aging out of these movies? Is the poker-faced mask of the director starting to slip? I feel that in spite of his deftness, I can see Kurosawa pulling the strings, setting us up for a Hitchcock-like tale of outrage at perverse madness. And there is some way in which I can't find it in myself to like or be too involved in these later Kurosawa movies, in spite of their obvious admirable points. The performances are all very well-measured. Teruyuki Kagawa certainly stands out, playing the oddball neighbor
[Reveal] Spoiler:
who is, of course, exactly the Hitchcock-variety psychopath that he seems to be.
Kagawa is an actor who reminds me quite a bit of Kevin Spacey––toned exactly right for any given role, but is it all a trick? There is this aura of control that feels poised, measured...and, finally, false. For Spacey and for Kagawa both, there is a level on which the performance feels less drawn from life than from the kind of virtuoso of a man who is more slick surface and brittle ego than deep, yearning soul. That is not to say that Spacey or Kagawa do anything other than give the best performance asked of them––a better performance, in both cases, than most people are capable of giving––but neither actor ever really succeeds in convincing me of their sincerity. That sense of being taken for a ride stands out very much in this movie, because both the villain of the piece, and the villain's sinister plan, prove to be so plain, dull, and depressing when it all is finally dragged out into the open--total spoiler--
[Reveal] Spoiler:
psychopath Kagawa invades families, pretending to be family members as he slowly kills off his oppressed prisoners--he takes possession of the families, playing the father figure. There's the really sinister and potentially fruitful implication early on that he is psychically usurping the head of these households, but he doesn't actually integrate into the families––he's in it for the living space, what free meals he can get, and whatever savings the family has. Besides that, he...watches television. Hangs out. He seems empty...is that sort of the point?).
In Cure, the mesmerist mastermind who spreads the virus of psychosis amongst people is a helpless character––a villain with no large purpose, and the horror that is the lifeblood of that film stems from the helpless way the virus the villain brings to people redoubles and spreads without check, even after he dies. There is a sense at the end of that film that society itself is being undermined by this seeming disease, itself similar to a state of monomaniacal, psychotic fugue--and aren't so many of us in our so-called "reality" drifting into monomaniacal states (here I am on the internet, blabbering on to...anyone? maybe no one?)? In Charisma that virus seems to have continued on from the plot of Cure and spread, and civilization seems to be seriously deteriorating in the background of that film, as a result. The horror in these movies always spreads from an intimate source to a larger social setting, and we see the transfer of what seemed to be individual struggles to a larger social stage. Those films felt absorbing and interesting. To put a finer point on it, I watched those earlier films and drew parallels between the abstract horror conceits of their narratives and the alienating effects I felt in modern living. The films seemed to speak about serious concerns in a fictional matrix that was inventive in its mis-en-scene and in its narrative structure, and that was as invigorating as it was moving. Creepy in a way moves in narrative reverse to those previous films, positing a society whose members are alienated from one another to begin with. Into that is introduced a psychopath who disrupts the couple that are the main characters--the apocalypse moves outwards towards the inner sphere. That should be equally fascinating, but...no. Somehow it seems rather stale. The gradual reveal of a society cracking at the seams is poetic and moving. I'm not sure carrying the thematic material inwards towards the intimate family structure proves quite as meaningful––especially since the household life of the couple we follow through the film has hardly any depth or intimacy to it. Are the couple already disconnected from each other, unsatisfied in their marriage? That does seem to be a later implication in the film, but then it has to be said that Kurosawa doesn't really do a definitive job sketching out that undercurrent of inter-personal strife––though we definitely see that they have trouble engaging their neighbors in even the most innocuous dialogues. In spite of that external social disjunction, the couple seems largely well-adjusted to each other most of the time––though the lack of intimacy between them is just a little disconcerting. It's revisiting the early sequences of home life in the film that causes me to reflect and to wonder if there are any scenes of real intimacy between characters in Kurosawa's films? The couple in Cure is estranged by mental illness. The couple in Seance are very strained with one another. The family is broken in License to Live, and the point of the film, sort of, is that they never get back together, even when the son recently woken from his coma really needs them to. Something almost the same happens in Tokyo Sonata, regardless of the last scene of that film, so preposterous I can only regard it as a dream sequence. No one in Charisma is romantic partners with anyone, or even cohorts on the same team really--and none of the competitors have the "special relationship" with the tree that they think they have. The pair in Pulse we think might have a romantic future together end up spiraling off in very different directions. Doesn't one of them disperse into birds by the end? Or something. Bright Future offers no chance of any kind of romantic relationship––even the friendship between Yuji and Mamoru is one where they are never communicating with one another on the same level. The only romantic union I can recall in a Kurosawa film (barring the his pink films, which treat sex as ludicrous animal urges, and which feel somehow a little freer and more uplifting in tone as a result) is in the "happy" ending of Doppelganger, where the supposed "romance" is part of a play for laughs, goofing on the genre trope of the happy ending. It seems that in Kurosawa's mind, humans are all thorny, difficult creatures who can at best exist politely next to one another, but can never understand or share one another's deeper feelings.

That idea comes across real heavy and hard after seeing Creepy, and I wonder if the reason I preferred those earlier movies that pulled back at the end to reveal a society taken up with the same craziness the characters in the movie have been wrestling with isn't that the zoom out to the whole society suggested some possibility of relief from the coldness with which Kurosawa stages interpersonal interactions. The apocalypses waiting in the wings throughout Cure and Charisma and Pulse seem so much more comfortingly human the way they embrace the chaos. There's the sense in those earlier films of the world going crazy as the films delve deeper into their nature, and that in and of itself is at once more bracing and more comforting than the ending of Creepy. It might be a personal feeling, but for me narratives that topple into madness at the end are all some variation on a happy ending. Creepy doesn't do that, and so the coldness with which people hold themselves throughout the movie maintains as simply the coldness inherent in the film's alienated society. The
[Reveal] Spoiler:
killing of the villain
at the end provides no respite from the uncomfortable atmosphere of the film, or the depressing pedantry of the psychopath and his world of dull insanity. I wonder if I'm reading my own feelings into it when I say that the full reveal of the psychopath and his limited world seemed a little like a sigh of defeat from Kurosawa himself? He didn't seem to have it in him to make this character's madness ultimately very interesting.

Now, about that ending, there is this dangling thread:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
the hero turns things around on the villain,
and I don't really understand how he does it. Somehow
[Reveal] Spoiler:
the hero has broken the mind-control the villain exerts upon his victims. Has his wife helped him? Is he just pretending to be drugged by his wife? Does she not inject him with the drug earlier, as she appears to? And if she doesn't, how would the hero know how to pretend to react to the drug, since he's seeing it for the first time at the film's climax?
The twist seems very unclear, and so the narrative turnaround feels exceptionally forced. But between the ugliness and plainness of the sadism in the film and the careful spinning out of the suspense I feel this increasingly wide chasm of incongruity, which I think is just my widening disinterest with the movie. Serial killer movies have never really worked for me, though I can respect what Psycho and Manhunter do with the genre, and I in fact love Sogo Ishii's Angel Dust in spite of it being through and through a post-Silence of the Lambs serial killer picture. And somehow all Giallos get a pass from me as well. But with Kurosawa in that genre space, I feel very torn. He seems so expert at making exactly this kind of film. He turns the screws just right. Everybody acts their hearts out. The script dolls out suspense and ideas one after the other. Just when I would feel the film wasn't lighting fire it would go and light fire, and keep me watching. But the picture has left me increasingly cold. I think I like it less and less, on an ever-increasing, minute-by-minute basis. And I can't tell whether this is purely a sense of my own changing aesthetic sense being disillusioned at what I'm seeing, or whether Kurosawa himself has just hit a kind of a wall, where his skill as a filmmaker has surpassed his subject matter, or vice-versa. There is a sense in which this is a less inventive film than Cure or Pulse, just in terms of creative mis-en-scene and dramaturgy. Scenes aren't quite as interesting to look at as in the previous movies. Maybe the point was to show the everyday life of the middle-class as something really dreary and suffocating. But one could feel the tenseness, the discomfort and the breakdown of society in almost any single scene of Cure, and to stage a whole movie just to prove that same point again now seems excessive for Kurosawa. In a way the film reminds me of the later Hitchcock, the maker of Topaz and Frenzy––so conscious and controlling of his effects in the wake of his interview with Truffaut, but unable to capture the fresh voice or the urgency of Shadow of a Doubt, Psycho or Vertigo...or even Foreign Correspondent.

Looking at IMDB, it seems Kurosawa is more busy than ever right now. I don't know what these future movies will contain, but I guess I would like it to be something that challenges him more than Creepy. I'd like to see Kurosawa open his eyes to something like actual intimacy, or, dare I suggest it, actual romance. Where both romantic partners are alive, even. I'd like to see something a little rougher around the edges than this movie, which was really almost painfully conventional in its polish, now that I think of it. There are a lot of subtle shifts in lighting in this movie, and wind that suddenly whispers through surrounding trees and over sheets of plastic. Everyone was lit to ecstatic, sculptural perfection, and characters who are meant to be sympathetic at one moment or another are cast to be exactly the right kind of sympathetic for their part. But there was a very special feeling converse to that in, say, the different killers in Cure. Those killers were ordinary and unglamorous. Even the central figure making them kill was not a magnetic personality. None of them were especially sympathetic, either--my heart did not go out to the medical technician who was peeling the face off that man when she was in her trance. It gave the movie a sense of danger and freedom, the freedom of feeling that the lurking mood of doom in the movie was in the wind, available to anyone and everyone--you could carry that lightning out of the theater with you. Budgetarily-speaking, the film itself looked like its makers were barely scraping it together--at least in comparison to Creepy, which is burnished in exactly the way a David Fincher movie is both polished and airless––but the world of Cure seemed alive, catalyzed by the very social breakdown it was cataloguing. Actually, my heart did go out to that waitress at the end of Cure; she trembles with vulnerable confusion before she seems to harden completely, going out of herself and picking up a knife on the way out of the shot--heading off to spread some fresh mayhem, like creamy butter melting over stale bread. Creepy, by comparison, ultimately feels a lot like its central antagonist: poised, twitchy, finely wrought, but under it all, a tasteless, hoary old bore.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 1:52 pm 
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Looking forward to Creepy, nonetheless. ;-)

I take it you didn't bother with Journey to the Sea, feihong? FWIW, it is probably my favorite KK film, for all that it is very unlike much of his other work (tonally MUCH better than Tokyo Sonata, as far as I was concerned).


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 4:11 pm 
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That one I plan to see in the next couple days. I also plan to watch The Seventh Code, which I have around somewhere. I also have the miniseries to watch, but because of the time commitment involved I'm holding off to see about these other films. I originally acquired it for Ayumi Ito, the star of Swallowtail Butterfly. But when I put an episode on to see what she does in the film, it seems she's playing a kook, and that caused me to lose interest quite a bit. But I am getting interested in watching Journey to the Shore, finally. To be honest, the whole "ghost comes back to his wife to make things right for people" concept is a conceit that almost stops me dead in my tracks; but I know several people on this forum like it a lot and I know you have high regard for it, so I plan to persevere. I really am still hoping to enjoy these Kurosawa films, because I was deeply moved by many films in the early part of his career. And I do recognize that some change is occurring in which I like far fewer contemporary films––including those by filmmakers I used to admire. I wonder if my personal aesthetic is changing, or whether the reverse is happening, and that my personal aesthetic is actually staying the same while the culture of moviemaking is changing and directors are moving to accommodate those shifting realities. But I'm going to do my best to keep an open mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 8:38 pm 
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Well, as I've said before, I see a closer connection between Journey to the Shore and Rivette's Marie and Julien (itself largely an outlier in the Rivette canon, to my mind) than between Journey to the Shore and most other KK stuff. So evaluating Journey as a KK film, rather than (first and foremost) as something standing alone in its own right, might put it at a disadvantage. ;-)

Seventh Code, OTOH, struck me as sort of KK's Merry-Go-Round.

Penance, on first watching, left me with mixed feelings -- but I was glad to have seen it (rather like Kore'eda's mini-series, made around the same time).


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:23 am 
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Something I really like about the Kiyoshi Kurosawa films that I've seen so far (Pulse, Doppleganger and Bright Future) is the way that they seem most interested in focusing on 'abandoned' characters. Its more than just someone involved in events that they cannot control but about someone having their part in events 'usurped' from them in some fashion and left in some form of limbo. They have no agency in the world and are just left wandering disconnectedly through it, still tied in some ways to people (or jobs, objects or ways of life) that are long gone from their lives and cannot really be re-captured in their previous form.

Bright Future in particular has an alienated central character about to lash out violently against his (intrusive and perhaps boorish yet not awful) boss at his dead-end job find that his friend has already done so. Then whilst in jail his friend commits suicide with an (annoyingly!) vague gesture to his friend to 'go' off with his own life and a gift of a poisonous jellyfish that they were acclimating to salt water. A jellyfish that actually seems to have a larger story of 'self actualisation' than either our main character or his dead friend's father does, despite their burgeoning relationship revolving around the absent centre of the friend/son. It also kind of makes Bright Future into a weird pre-apocalypse film, in which our main characters have eventually unleashed a horde of poisonous, adaptable to any environmental condition, jellyfish onto the wider world as a kind of fulfilment of their obligations to the dead friend/son!

I think Bright Future has one of the best endings too, with the group of young hooligans that our lead character has briefly fallen in with and encouraged to ransack the office where he has been given a menial photocopying job after hours (and who then all get captured by the cops) are released wondering just who that guy was anyway and wander purposelessly down a street, occasionally passed by purposeful business suit types, as the end credits play and their walk seems to turn (with the move into the street) more into a march of generational ennui. That seems literalised by the lyrics to the end credits song too.

It also kind of parallels the brief shot of the just-orphaned girl of the murdered boss and his wife wandering through the tunnel in her pyjamas from earlier on.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 2:59 am 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
Well, as I've said before, I see a closer connection between Journey to the Shore and Rivette's Marie and Julien (itself largely an outlier in the Rivette canon, to my mind) than between Journey to the Shore and most other KK stuff. So evaluating Journey as a KK film, rather than (first and foremost) as something standing alone in its own right, might put it at a disadvantage. ;-)

Seventh Code, OTOH, struck me as sort of KK's Merry-Go-Round.

Penance, on first watching, left me with mixed feelings -- but I was glad to have seen it (rather like Kore'eda's mini-series, made around the same time).


I ended up really enjoying Journey to the Shore. It seemed like a real advance for Kurosawa, with lovely performances, and a sense of real life and surreality sitting comfortably in the same atmosphere. Everything I thought would be corny or morbid about the premise was dodged, and the more "indie" and unadorned look of the picture was really refreshing––the film is much more beautiful for it than Creepy is with its more polished, slick and expensive look. The standout elements of the film that moved me ended up being what I think is a career-best performances from Asano––just absolutely the right actor for the role, making wonderful subtlety instead of schmaltz––and the really lovely score to the film, with its unexpected swelling up of horns. The moment where Asano carries the old man on his back and horn section wells up behind him was very transcendent, and I found myself very moved by it. We see so clearly Yusuke's motivation in this moment; what he gets from doing this, what he wants to do with the time and energy that remain his. It's a film that makes the intimate world the most important one, where the feelings of nearly invisible people matter most of all. It's a little like Wings of Desire, if that movie were actually good. The main thing I'm thinking of is the way Bruno Ganz tastes an apple for the first time––that sense of small discovery––that's what the two films seem to share. They also share a supernatural conceit, but Journey to the Shore is far more effective in underplaying the supernatural in favor of deeply human characters. Yusuke never seems like a ghost so much as a person who needs just a little more time with certain people. That aspect of his living, breathing person is touching and moving, whereas all the junk rules about angels make Wings of Desire feel mannered and pedantic. I think also the low-budget haze that lurks over Journey to the Shore really helps to make the supernatural elements very effective. The ambiguity of them is gently underlined by the way the eerie elements occur flatly in a grainy frame. It recesses the supernatural component into the background of the movie and allows the character drama to reach you first and foremost. The real mystical element of the movie becomes the real things people can't figure out how to say to one another.

Really all the things I complained about in recent Kurosawa movies are not in this one. In comparison to Kurosawa's other films I'd put it on a level with Cure and Bright Future and Kandagawa River Pervert Wars, which are to my mind his better films. I haven't seen Marie and Julien from Rivette, though, so I don't have any thoughts on that comparison yet. I'll try and watch that this week as well. But I hold the film in high esteem. It's hard to call this movie a masterpiece––I sort of wish there was a word that conveyed more the smallness and intimacy of the film's moving qualities.

There was one thing that slightly blemished the film for me, and that was the piano scene in the middle of the picture, where Mizuki "teaches" the little ghost girl piano. The advice Mizuki gives the girl works almost like an "on-off" switch, turning the girl from a believably awkward pianist into a fluent one––as if Mizuki had done that with her demand that the piece be "more flowing." That. just. is. not. how. that. works. I don't think Kurosawa understands this, because something similar happens in Tokyo Sonata, which was the flashpoint for me in that film as well. At the end of the film, the son, who taken piano lessons for about 5 or 6 months, plays like a virtuoso at a recital, moving his parents nearly to tears. I do believe the parents would be moved by seeing their son play, but he can't play that well in that time. Virtually no one could. In both film situations there is the possibility that Kurosawa is employing a kind of hyperreality, making the playing seem better than it could plausibly be, for dramatic effect. But as a pianist I can't buy into it. It seems that Kurosawa treats the piano as a kind of magical sounding board for the soul rather than a real instrument. It's just a touch too far for me. But it was a minor hiccup in Journey to the Shore film, which otherwise feels so right––whereas it's a train wreck in Tokyo Sonata, because everything else in that film feels like it's not working.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 12:48 pm 
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I think in Journey, the young pianist's ability is "psychically blocked" (she actually _has_ the ability already, but can't yet display it). So, the lesson "frees" her -- rather than magically giving her ability she should not have.

Never heard of Kandagawa River Pervert Wars before!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 4:20 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
I think in Journey, the young pianist's ability is "psychically blocked" (she actually _has_ the ability already, but can't yet display it). So, the lesson "frees" her -- rather than magically giving her ability she should not have.

Never heard of Kandagawa River Pervert Wars before!!!


Yeah, that does seem to be what's happening in Journey. I'm not sure I buy it, still--that idea of swiftly surmounting a mental block seems pure Hollywood technique to me. I guess I prefer when the question of whether someone is good a playing piano is immaterial to the script, as it is in, say Haneke's The Piano Teacher. Fingers and its sibling, The Beat My Heart Skipped, and maybe Shine, are the only fiction films I've seen that are very lucid and consistent about people's actual skills at the piano. When someone couldn't do something, and now that their block is overcome, they completely can, I find it really suspicious. It wasn't a terrible distraction in Journey, but it made me think back to what an incongruity it seemed to be in Tokyo Sonata.

Kandagawa River Pervert Wars is Kurosawa's first feature. It's a pink film about two sexually frustrated housewives who live in apartments facing the Kandagawa River (the river, surrounded by bridges and apartment blocks, is the setting for most of the film's action). They spy across the street through a telescope to kill boredom, and they discover a young "ronin" studying for his entrance exams. His mother appears to be rewarding him with sex for his academic breakthroughs. The housewives decide to restore the proper sexual balance in the household by seducing the young man themselves and getting him away from his amorous mother. The mother rebuffs them, then the son rebuffs them, and then they can't decide between themselves who should be the victor, so the "pervert wars" of the title are fought between four armies, really just to decide what kind of pervert the young "ronin" will be. Stylistically, the film has an abrupt and playful style redolent of Early Godard, and in the apartment complexes that line the filth-strewn river there is a hint of the Rivette who makes urban Paris into a playground for his characters' fantasies and paranoia. Not sure others like the film that much––it is a pink film, and it has lengthy soft-core sex scenes with a lot of moaning. But to me it's one of Kurosawa's best films; it's lucid, free and very fun. The characters are--as colinr0380 says about many of Kurosawa's characters--social outcasts, for the most part. Or at least, they're people with the ability to stand somewhat outside their own society, and see it from in this case a very twisted, alienated perspective. They're housewives, at play in an abandoned block of apartments, manufacturing a conflict that can capture their full attention. The characters little social rebellion is a bit like graffiti over the monument of "quality filmmaking," and that's another reason I really prize the film.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:05 pm 
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I guess this might interest some people in the area: Kiyoshi Kurosawa Action Shorts at the Embassy of Japan, Washington DC, Feb 10 (free admission). That's Beautiful New Bay Area Project and Seventh Code, great films both.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 3:04 pm 
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There doesn't seem to have been any formal announcement of this yet, but according to a couple of different film festivals Before We Vanish is being distributed by NEON in the U.S.


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:48 am 
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Location: New England
The cast of Before We Vanish in their Team Kurosawa tee shirts:

http://www.cinemacafe.net/article/2017/09/14/52519.html


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 Post subject: Re: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:51 am 

Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:48 am
Kiyoshi Kurosawa Cure video-essay


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLPiX-jUa6M&t=1s

A video-essay I recently made about Kurosawa's Cure. I'm hoping that it will help others find their way to him and his excellent work!


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